Fascinating historical sites, museums, Creole plantations and festivals await.
Pronounced “Nac-Au-Tish,” Natchitoches is the oldest town in the state. Located in the heart of the Cane River National Heritage Area, this community boasts fascinating historical sites and a variety of shopping and dining in the charming downtown. Historic Natchitoches also offers many year-round attractions, including museums, Creole plantations and festivals, and was the location for the film “Steel Magnolias.”
Architecture of a Diverse Cultural History
To get a feel for the area, start your visit with a stroll through Natchitoches’ National Historic Landmark District, one of only three such districts in Louisiana. Comprising 33 blocks, it features beautiful examples of Queen Anne and Victorian architecture along with Creole townhouses and other centuries-old buildings. Natchitoches’ architecture beautifully reflects its colorful history with French, Spanish, African, American Indian and Creole influences.
After enjoying the unique convergence of cultures here, end your walk on historic Front Street, a scenic road paved with cobblestones, wrought-iron buildings and magnificent magnolia trees right along the banks of beautiful Cane River Lake. Front Street is also where you will find Natchitoches’ colorful shops and restaurants. Be sure to stop by Lasyone's Meat Pie Restaurant for their famous meat pie, a Natchitoches institution. Also in the area is the Kaffie-Frederick General Mercantile Store, Louisiana’s oldest store.
Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame
Just as you immerse in the quaintness of Natchitoches’ historic district, turn left at the end of Front Street to marvel at the state-of-the-art Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. This futuristic-looking complex showcases the achievements of more than 300 Louisiana sports legends in fascinating multi-media exhibitions. If sports are not your thing, the Northwest Louisiana History Museum with its exhibit of the area’s unique cultural traditions is in the same building.
Exploring Natchitoches’ Heritage and Plantations
A few miles south, explore the Cane River Creole National Historical Park. The area has some of the oldest plantations in the south, located along Cane River Lake. Some of them share stories and secrets about their former owners and some of them are even famous for their ghost tales.
The Oakland Plantation reflects almost 200 years of history with decorations, furniture and artifacts from various eras – a glimpse into how the times and the people changed. Melrose Plantation is a National Historic Landmark, considered one of the largest plantations in the United States built by and for the free people of color. Magnolia Plantation is another favorite. The main house still belongs to the descendants of the LeCompte family and is privately owned and not open to the public.
Also in the Cane River National Heritage Area is the beautiful American Cemetery, considered the oldest in the Louisiana Purchase with graves dating back to colonial times.
Among the historic sites, you can also learn about El Camino Real de los Tejas. Designated as a National Historic Trail in 2004, this legendary trail stretches 4,000 kilometers from colonial Mexico City through Texas and ends in Natchitoches.
Just minutes away from downtown, you will find Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site, originally built in 1716 by French Canadian Louis Juchereau de St. Denis. At this site today, right on the riverfront, you’ll find a great museum and a replica of the original fort. Interpretive Rangers dressed in period attire represent the history of Natchitoches in colonial times.
To continue the experience, Natchitoches Alligator Park shows the mysterious and exciting world of the American alligator. Hundreds of alligators will entertain you with hourly feeding shows, but you don't have to just watch. You can feed them, touch them, and even have your picture taken with them.